Vladimir Putin’s socialite goddaughter Ksenia Sobchak flees Russia

Former presidential candidate and TV star Ksenia Sobchak attends a news conference in Moscow in 2018. AP

Ksenia Sobchak, a Russian socialite and TV personality, has fled the country after being named as a suspect in an extortion case, state media reported on Wednesday.

A popular media personality and journalist, Sobchak is reportedly President Vladimir Putin’s goddaughter. Her father, the late Saint Petersburg mayor Anatoly Sobchak, was once Mr Putin’s boss.

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Sobchak “departed Moscow during the night”, a police source told news agency Tass.

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The source said she left Russia through Belarus to enter Lithuania.

Tass and state-run channel RT cited law enforcement sources as saying Sobchak was suspected of large-scale extortion, a crime punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

The agency earlier said her villa outside Moscow was searched in connection with a case against her commercial director, Arian Romanovsky.

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Sobchak has for years been involved in Russian opposition politics, though she remains a divisive figure among Mr Putin critics.

The 40-year-old ran for the presidency against Mr Putin in 2018, with Russian opposition politicians accusing her of being used by the Kremlin as a spoiler candidate.

Thousands of Russians have fled the country since Mr Putin launched an attack on Ukraine in February, with a second wave leaving after he announced a military mobilisation on September 21.

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